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Watch out for fake social media accounts scamming Pennsylvania jobless workers

State officials warned that such scams have ramped up since Congress extended federal unemployment benefits.

Social media. (Photo by Flickr user Jason Howie, used under a Creative Commons license) is one of 20+ news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice.

A version of this article originally appeared at The Philadelphia Inquirer and is republished here with permission via the Broke in Philly collaborative.

Online fraudsters tried to scam jobless workers using a fake Facebook page that closely resembled the one used by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, except for one important detail. The scammers misspelled the word “labor.”

Grifters running a Facebook account for a “labour” department, using the British spelling of the word, tried to obtain workers’ personal and confidential information, such as Social Security or unemployment claim numbers, a department spokesperson said Monday. That phony page has been taken down, but state officials warned that such scams have ramped up since Congress extended federal unemployment benefits.

“Unfortunately, the availability of new federal unemployment money is causing a surge in fraud attempts,” acting Labor and Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier said in a statement. “L&I does not communicate directly with individuals over social media, including Facebook.”

Fraudsters typically pose as Labor and Industry staff members, ask victims for their personal information, then use it to steal victims’ unemployment benefits or commit other identity fraud, department spokesperson Sarah DeSantis said. She said these tactics are being used in multiple states and are not exclusive to unemployment.

State officials said they are working with Facebook and law enforcement to quickly identify and remove fraudulent pages, and encouraged people who find a suspicious page to flag it for staff review. DeSantis did not immediately say whether any arrests had been made.

The department operates an official Facebook page under the name PA Department of Labor & Industry and handle @PALaborIndustry. It has a blue checkmark next to the name that verifies authenticity.

In other social media scam news: Scammers are posing as employees from local tech companies via fake LinkedIn job posts. Read reporter Paige Gross’ December story about what businesses should know.

Companies: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Facebook / State of Pennsylvania
Series: Philadelphia Journalism Collaborative

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